Mae Jemison is a doctor, an astronaut, a dancer and a businesswoman. (Photo: NASA/Wikimedia Commons)
Mae Jemison took a winding road to become the first Black woman to serve as an astronaut. In 1973, she entered Stanford University at 16 years old, an age she didn't realize until later was a bit young to be in college. She graduated in 1977 with dual degrees in chemical engineering and African-American studies. That same year, she enrolled at Cornell University's medical school, with a focus on international medicine. She volunteered in Thailand, studied in Kenya and graduated with her medical degree in 1981.
After a short stint in private practice, Jemison joined the Peace Corps in 1983 and worked in West Africa on a few different projects, including a hepatitis B vaccine. Later that year, she applied to be an astronaut, inspired by Nichelle Nichols' portrayal of Uhura on "Star Trek." In 1987, Jemison, along with 14 other people, was selected for the astronaut pool.
After her acceptance, Jemison worked on various launch-support tasks before launching into space for a weeklong stint aboard the space shuttle Endeavour in 1992. While aboard, she conducted multiple experiments, including observing how tadpoles developed in zero gravity. Jemison left NASA in 1993 and started her own company dedicated to developing science and technology for everyday life.
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